Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis (MAP) is the etiological agent of Johne's disease (or paratuberculosis). Paratuberculosis is a chronic gastroenteritis mainly affecting cattle, sheep and other ruminants. MAP is also of concern due to the heretofore unresolved issue of its possible role in Crohn's disease in humans. We present here a review of MAP (i) mobile genetic elements; (ii) repetitive elements; (iii) single nucleotide polymorphisms; and (iv) whole-genome comparisons to study the molecular epidemiology of MAP. A summary of the findings to date is presented, and the discriminatory power, advantage and disadvantages of each of the methods are compared and discussed.